Professional football, baseball, basketball. That's vaudeville." The words are those of Avery Brundage. They are, to be sure, out of context; and the context, which I want to recommend to anyone who may have missed it, is the article by Tex Maule in our Feb. 2 issue, Is America a Second-class Track Power? But even by themselves the words do not distort the lifetime conviction of the staunch Mr. Brundage that if it isn't amateur, it isn't sport; if it's professional, it's show business.
With this SPORTS ILLUSTRATED concurs only in small part. Professionalism in sport must be show-business. But that is nearly the least of it. Mr. Brundage himself would seem at times to veer toward a like view. For he also says, "I imagine you could say some professional athletes are really amateurs, because they are most interested in excelling—not in the rewards they get from excelling."
Next week SPORTS ILLUSTRATED presents a man who has certainly been interested in the rewards of excelling, but whose excelling few who compete with it would care to call vaudeville.
The point is worth making because he has, perhaps more often than not, been reported in caricature. This is an almost predictable fate for people of talent, color and originality—qualities which Yogi Berra of the Yankees has in massive abundance. Berra's color and originality, in fact, have sometimes almost obscured his talent. To many he is the squat dynamic figure which magnetizes their attention on the diamond, rather than the star who has won his place as one of the great catchers of all time and who, among his other accomplishments, holds more major World Series records than any other player. Whatever the general image may be, few people, I think, have ever seen the off-season, off-diamond Berra whom Herbert Warren Wind reveals next week.
Although most familiar to readers of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in his regular role of golf editor, Herb Wind, like Berra himself, takes all sport as his province. Among his notable excursions from the fairway have been articles on basketball's Bob Cousy (SI, Jan. 9 & 16, '56), hockey's Maurice Richard (SI, Dec. 6, '54) and Sport in Japan (SI, Feb. 24 & March 3, '58). And last year he was coeditor with Peter Schwed of a three-volume anthology of sports fiction, Great Stories from the World of Sport.
Of Yogi Berra he says, "It is enjoyable to write about him because it is so enjoyable to know him." What he has written you will find, I feel safe in saying, no less enjoyable to read.